THE PLACE: Down Hall Hotel & Spa, Hatfield Heath, Hertfordshire
A historic country house with contemporary bedrooms, a brand-new spa and plenty of child-friendly activities (including a new kids' play area), Down Hall is an idyllic country escape that is right on London’s doorstep. Dating back to 1322, the building stands within 110 acres of thriving gardens and woodland near Bishop’s Stortford on the Hertfordshire/Essex border – a mere 45 minutes from central London and within easy reach of Stansted Airport for those heading off or returning from family holidays.
The new outdoor terrace – a brand new feature and the perfect tranquil place to sit with one of the gins from the extensive list in its outdoor bar surrounded by lavender boxes and views over the grounds. Feels more like a quiet corner in Provence than Essex countryside. There was a time BC (before child) the husband and I would have happily whiled away the entire afternoon in that little suntrap.
The great outdoors (with a new kids play area) – 110 acres is a fair bit of space and you don’t feel like anywhere is off limits. Theo would have been happy enough with just the open grounds to romp around in but there’s now the added bonus of a brand new children’s play area. It has everything top of a child’s wishlist (multiple slides, swings and plenty to climb) and parents are put at ease by how well kept and nicely designed it is.
Eden Spa – He went for a massage, I opted for a facial and both left us feeling relaxed and refreshed. Jordan, my therapist, gave great advice into the ESPA products to calm my hormonal skin issues, but no pushiness whatsoever on product sales.
Service – A delicious child’s Sunday Roast in The Grill Room (complete with a box to package up the leftovers in when we asked), smiling staff at every turn, and the milk we ordered to the room for Theo’s nighttime bottle being delivered on a tray with a mini Down Hall teddy bear along with the instruction to just ring down at any time if we needed more throughout the night. A lovely touch!
Beware of the towel rail in the bathroom – that thing gets HOT! Being there on one of the hottest days of the year so far I didn’t even think to check it to see if it might be on but was relieved that it was me rather than Theo who made the discovery as it really was piping. Would definitely recommend housekeeping sticks a warning label on those.
Also, this is an old country estate, so don't be expecting the luxury of a lift upstairs to your room - worth bearing in mind when deciding on baby transportation.
If you’re booking at the right time, you can get a room at Down Hall for as little as £76 for a Classic Double. Pretty darn reasonable for a hotel of this quality! We stayed in a beautifully high-spec Feature Room (prices from £135) as the added space meant there was plenty of room for us and the travel cot – plus going to sleep and waking up to those views out over the grounds was really special.
They have plenty of reasonably priced packages including overnight stay, dinner and / or spa treatments on the website so it’s definitely worth hitting that tab to see if there are any deals to be had.
The Wet Spa in the Eden Spa gets booked up well in advance so whilst you may be able to book in for treatments close to your stay you might miss out on access to the lovely hydrotherapy pool, steam room and private outdoor relaxation beds – book early to avoid disappointment!
This place is also just a stone’s throw from Stanstead Airport, so rather than plumping for a convenient yet dull and overpriced airport hotel, why not stay here the night before or after a long flight to get in some proper R&R and feel like the holiday’s been extended by an extra precious 24 hours.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
If you’re looking for a family-friendly overnight spa escape that feels worlds away from the city but without a hideous long drive with an overwrought baby in the back, this is the place. Fresh air, country estate vibes, spa relaxation and acres and acres of open space to run around until tiny hearts are content – we left feeling like we’d had a proper family break without the airmiles. Winning!
Down Hall Country House Hotel and Spa Matching Road, Hatfield Heath Essex CM22 7AS
T: 012 7973 1441
For more information, and to book a stay – visit the Down Hall website here